Jay Matharu is a Guitarist, Musician and Teacher originally from London, UK.
In the years he has been playing and studying guitar he has found himself on stages all over Europe, performing covers and original music.
He has written, recorded and performed original music in a variety of different genres, bands and projects. Tracks he has written and played guitar on have appeared on many radio stations including, Bandit Rock, Total Rock, Kerrang Radio, and the BBC Asian Network.
In 2005 he graduated from the Guitar Institute (London, UK) with a Degree in Popular Music Performance and completed a HND equivalent certificate at The Academy of Contemporary Music (Guildford, UK) in 2000.
He has had the fortune of studying guitar with some amazing players including, Mattias IA Eklundh (Freak Kitchen), Guthrie Govan (Asia), Dave Kilminster (Roger Waters), and not forgetting Zav Lutz, his first guitar teacher.
Born in South London 1981 Jay’s first memory of music was Bollywood film soundtracks and watching “Top of the Pops” (a pop chart show where artists would perform “live”) with his older sister twice a week.
In 1990 his family relocated to Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, a tiny coastal town. It was here he was introduced to an eclectic mix of music through his friends.
At 12 years old Jay was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar and eventually his Mum, Gina Martharu, bought him one. After only a few weeks of lessons, with the local classical guitar teacher, he decided to give up. As the guitar collected dust in the corner of his bedroom he dreamt of being a rockstar along the lines of Slash or Kurt Cobain.
A few months later he picked the guitar back up and started writing really bad songs using the chords he learned from Wolf Marshall’s beginner series books. The more and more he practiced the more interested he became in rock music so much so that he would record live videos from MTV’s Headbangers Ball and songs off the radio to learn guitar riffs.
When he turned 16 he chatted with his teachers and was allowed to change subjects from woodwork to music with the prerequisite at he would take guitar lessons and be able to keep up with the music theory.
Serious guitar student
After some searching Jay found guitar teacher Zav Lutz who introduced him to many music styles and guitarists galore. Within a few months Jay’s only focus was playing guitar and starting a band.
Fast forward a year and Jay was playing in two bands gigging regularly. It was then he made the decision to make music his career.
In September 1999 he began studying at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford with amazing instructors that included Guthrie Govan , Dave Kilminster (Roger Waters), Jamie Humphries and Pete Callard.
In 2000, on completing the course Jay was diagnosed with tendonitis, on recommendation from the physiotherapist and the excruciating pain he felt, he was forced to stop playing.
A few months later he began to slowly build back up the strength in his left hand. He also began working at Anderson’s Music, Guildford, UK, selling and demoing musical equipment.
In 2002, with his wrist healed Jay got a place on Guitar Institutes Popular Music Performance degree course. At this time he began playing with the metal band “String Theory”, but the time spent rehearsing, writing and gigging conflicted with his studies although the dream of being a rockstar was still his priority. Unfortunately luck was not on his side and after months of talks with management and record labels there were no contracts signed.
2005 arrived he finished his studies and began playing with various bands on the underground London metal scene including “Maleficent” and “We The Faceless” gracing venues such as Islington Academy, Barfly, Camden Underworld and Kingston Peel.
Mahavira & the birth of the Fretless Guitarist
Inspired after selling merchandise on tour for Metal / Flamenco fusion band Breed 77 Jay decided he wanted to start a new project in 2006 which incorporated a more world music influence but retained a heavy rock sound.
After posting an advert online he met original bassist Raj Heer, who gave the band its name, “Mahavira” which means “Great Hero” in South and Central Asian mythology, and vocalist Ed Parker. They recorded a demo with Mark Weatherley (Ascending Dawn) on drums and gigged the London scene.
Jay on stage with Vigier Fretless Guitar – Mahavira gig at the 229 club.
In 2008 Jay was listening to a lot of Ron Thal (Bumblefoot) and Indian classical music. After seeing a Sarod concert (an Indian fretless instrument) he put two and two together and found a cheap fretless guitar online and began experimenting so much he wore out the fingerboard twice. (no mean feat) Due to personal differences Raj Heer left the band and was replaced with Zoltan Toth who also played fretless bass. They gigged around the UK much as they could refining their set list.
In 2009 Jay began studying Indian Classical music at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Centre with sitar Maestro Sanjay Guha (Student of the late Deepak Choudhury and the late Ravi Shankar). Jay performed with London Sitar Ensemble on Fretless Guitar on numerous occasions.
London Guitar Ensemble on stage.
Jay Matharu (right) with the London Sitar ensemble
With Mark Weatherley behind the drums, Mahavira went back into the studio in 2010 and recorded Halflight, which took on a more heavy and progressive edge leaving behind the previous ties to world music.
Apart from the acoustic guitar parts the whole EP was recorded with fretless instruments. After the EP was compete they recruited Riccardo Castellani jazz / fusion virtuoso on drums and carried on gigging around the UK and also performed two nights at the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival 2010.
Relocation & Other projects
Later on in the year 2010 Jay took the big decision to relocate to Sweden. The idea was to keep Mahavira alive with Jay returning to rehearse and gig, but unfortunately Mahavira ended up disbanding early 2011.
However Jay returned to play the Dutch Fretless Guitar festival 2011 as a solo act accompanied by Carro Barro (Tabla).
Jay Matharu and Carro Barro
In 2009 Hungarian drummer Andras Salyik (Blamish, Watchful Eye) was in London visiting Zoltan Toth (Blamish, Mahavira) and decided to invite Jay along for a jam. The trio instantly gelled musically, but as Salyik was based in Hungary it wasn’t possible to pursue a new project.
Roll around to February 2012 Jay and Zoltan Toth were talking with Andras Salyik (Drums, percussion) about jamming again incorporating elements of jazz, rock, metal, Hungarian folk, Hindustani classical music and psychedelia. They arranged to meet up at Salyik’s home studio in Budapest, locked the doors for 3 days and come out with 10 solid ideas to improvise over. All party’s were overjoyed with the result. They talked with Willem Niehorster and got themselves on the bill for The Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival 2012. The trio turned up to the festival with out any prior rehearsal and played both nights with a mixed set of improvisations and composed songs.
MTS Trio live at the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival 2012, left to right – Jay Matharu, Zoltan Toth, Andras Salyik.
At the moment Jay teaches guitar privately part-time, writing, recording and performing with various projects. He still lives in Uppsala, Sweden.
Interview with Jahloon 17/Feb/2016
Jahloon: You were born in London but relocated to Kinsale, a small village in County Cork, Ireland. That must have been quite a culture shock, how did you settle in?
Jay: It was definitely a shock! Having to learn Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) in school was really odd to me as it is a Celtic language that isn’t commonly spoken. Kinsale is such a small town where everybody knows everybody. My first day of school was nerve-racking as I thought that my brother and I would be singled out over the colour of our skin, which weirdly happened often in our school in London, but all the kids were really warm and friendly, so it didn’t take too long to make new friends.
My childhood in Ireland was definitely a good one! I was able to wander around freely in a very green natural environment with clean air and the ocean practically on our doorstep.
Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland
Jahloon: How old were you when you returned to London, and why move back?
Jay: I returned back to England two weeks after I turned 18 years old and back to London when I was 21. I moved to Guildford, Surrey to study at the ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music). As a teenager I was often bored which was great for practicing guitar and creativity but I needed a change of tempo and scenery. Moving back to England was easy as I had loads of family there. I had planned to move back to Ireland after the course but I kind of just stayed.
Jahloon: The London Sitar ensemble looks like a lot of fun, how did you integrate the Fretless Guitar into that?
Jay: It was a blast! The thrill of playing with so many other instruments in perfect synch is amazing. Sitar players do huge bends in and out of multiple notes and was very difficult to recreate certain ornamentation techniques such as “Meend” (sliding/ bending) or “Gamak” (rapid/rhythmical bends), on a fretted guitar it sounds rather square. The fretless guitar allows one to use these embellishments which sound more rounded and vocal like.
Jahloon: What was your first Fretless Guitar?
Jay: It was a guitar by a brand called DiMavery, I think they’re German. I bought it off the internet very cheaply. It was a strange guitar, completely orange, why would you have a floating trem on a fretless guitar? Plus there were no fret markers, but it did its job great. It’s sitting on a guitar rack in my best friend’s home studio nowadays.
Jahloon: When did you get the Vigier Surfretter Fretless Guitar?
Jay: I bought the Surfretter secondhand from a guy in Russia through the Unfretted Forum in 2009. (see thread) I had tested one previously at The London Guitar Show and got a lot of information from the Vigier rep. I was saving up to get one and then the guitar appeared on the forum. The price the seller was asking was exactly what I had in my bank account. I took it as sign and forked out the cash. The guitar was in amazing condition.
From Russia with Love – Jay’s Vigier Fretless Guitar
Jahloon: We first met at the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival V in 2010 when you were fronting Mahavira with two great sets, all original songs, did you write those?
Jay: Yeah I sure did! Well parts of them ….hahaha. Most of the tracks we played were from the Halflight EP and nearly everything else was improvised. Zoli and I wrote most of the riffs, Ed wrote all the vocal melodies & lyrics and we all including Ricci shared the task of arranging and structuring the songs.
Jahloon: What made you move to Sweden?
Jay: I love London, especially all my friends and family that live there but the last few years I was living there I started to feel like I was in a cage. My better half is Swedish and after my first visit here I fell in love with the place. It reminded me a little of Ireland, clean air, amazing nature, proper seasons but different. I’m not sure if we’ll settle here for good but right now the pace and quality of life suits me.
Jahloon: MTS trio played the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival VII in 2012 again with two great sets how did you come up with the name and any plans to play together again?
Jay: Thanks! We had to come up with a name pretty quickly so we just took the first letters of our surnames. Matharu, Toth, Salyik. We’ve chatted a few times about getting together and doing a project over the course of a few weeks, but as we all live in different countries and have different work schedules we haven’t been able to find the time. I’m hoping we’ll arrange something next year. I’ll keep you posted!
Jahloon: Your music has been heading in an interesting direction, what about the musical influences that you built your style?
Jay: Influences is a tough one, as I listen to a lot of different genres. I tend to go through phases of listening to an artist or style of music and naturally it has some sort of influence on what I play and write.
I guess the artists / bands who have influenced me the most are Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Tool, Jeff Buckley, Paul Gilbert, Pink Floyd, Ron Thal (Bumblefoot), Richie Kotzen, Opeth, Meshuggah, John Coltrane, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Ravi Shankar and Oceansize .
Jahloon: What about the post guitar gear, what effects and amps do you use?
Jay: I generally plug into what ever amp is provided at the venue. I have a Marshall DSL50 head and a 2×12 cab if needed, which is a great sounding reliable rig.
For MTS and Mahavira I used a Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Xotic effects BB Preamp and a line 6 DL4 all direct into the clean channel of a valve amp.
I use a Line 6 Pod HD500X for cover gigs and have been testing Positive Grid’s BIAS products for recording.
Jahloon: So how do you feel about the future, any musical plans?
Jay: The future looks good! I’ve set myself the goal of writing a concept album this year. I’m still unsure as to whether it’ll be a vocal or instrumental album. But writing has begun!
On the side I’m playing with Stockholm based Djent band Amnesia and an Acid Jazz covers band.
Hopefully next year I’ll be able to do something with MTS trio.
Jahloon: If you had not been a musician what career path do you think you would follow?
Jay: Not sure, It would definitely be something creative!
Jahloon: OK, let’s do the fun questions! You click on a FaceBook link and find that Bill Gates has given you one million dollars, what would you do with the money?
Jay: I would travel the world and distribute the money to people who really need it.
Jahloon: Oh gosh, it turns out the donation has evaporated, but a kindly soul takes pity on your plight and offers to buy you any guitar in the World. What would it be?
Jay: Tough questions! If it were possible I would have a semi-acoustic fretless guitar custom made.
Jahloon: Any hobbies outside music?
Jay: I lift weights and run when I have the time, I find it really meditative. I always wanted to learn Kung Fu and recently took up Wing Chun.
Jahloon: The old desert island questions, pick your four favourite music tracks, and why you chose them.
Jay: You’re not making it easy are you!
At this moment in time my four favourite tracks are:
Celeste (from Blueberry soundtrack) – Jean-Jacques Hertz, François Roy
Evolution – Skyharbor
Universe in a Crayon – David Maxim Micic
Sho’s Lament (from The secret world of Arrietty Soundtrack) – Cecile Corbel
I can’t really give you an explanation of why these are my favourite tracks at the moment but they are the four most played on my iPod over the last few weeks.
Jahloon: A book to take with you?
Jay: Books – I love reading books by Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Peter Singer and Jiddu Krishnamurti but if I could bring only one book it would have to be: Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimsky – To keep myself busy experimenting with new sounds or wait I change my mind, the book I would bring would be Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques by Bear Grylls – Got to survive on a desert island somehow!
Jahloon: The Slonimsky book is great, did you know he was a good friend of Frank Zappa?
Jay: I’m still taking the Bear Grylls, don’t tempt me.
Jahloon: What’s your favourite film?
Jay: Films – Not sure , I think it would have to be something by Studio Ghibli, their stories, artwork and soundtracks are amazing.
Jahloon: Favourite comedy film or TV series?
Jay: South Park.
Jahloon: Favourite joke?
Jay: What’s the difference between a guitarist and a savings bond?
A savings bond eventually matures and starts earning money.
Jahloon: Favourite food?
Jay: Vegan food.
Jahloon: Favourite cold drink?
Jay: Beer, especially IPA.
Jahloon: Favourite hot drink?
Jay: Green Tea.
Jahloon: Uppsala and Kinsale look like great places to live, if you had to move again, where would you relocate?
Jay: Hmmm…. It would probably be somewhere warm near the coast in India or the Caribbean.
Jahloon: After a Swedish winter, a very good choice, I might just join you. Pass the Green Tea and many thanks for the interview.
Jay: It has been great fun, thank you!
“New Contusions” Mahavira live at the 229 club Fitzrovia, London 19/Mar/2010
“Torture Garden” Mahavira live at the 229 club Fitzrovia, London 19/Mar/2010
Improvisation with Raga Shivranjani DFGFVII
New work 2016
Writing ideas on a cheap fretless acoustic:
Ideas for a new project:
MTS Trio feat Dave Jager – Jam
MTS Trio feat Dave Jager – Kick Them While They’re Down